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Does Congress Need a Rule Forbidding Members From Having Affairs With Interns?

Aired July 27, 2001 - 19:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
TUCKER CARLSON, HOST: Does Congress need a rule forbidding members from having affairs with interns?

ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, CROSSFIRE. On the left, Bill Press. On the right, Tucker Carlson. In the CROSSFIRE: Michael Zeldin, former independent counsel and former Justice Department official Victoria Toensing.

CARLSON: Good evening and welcome to CROSSFIRE. Chandra Levy is still missing. Gary Condit is still suffering. The California Congressman answered questions from police for the fourth time yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHIEF CHARLES RAMSEY, D.C. METROPOLITAN POLICE: We did meet with the congressman last night, just to clear up a few issues. There was some information that we still needed. We are going to now evaluate all of that. And that is pretty much where we are right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON: The saga continues. But will Condit's political career? A third Republican House member has called for his resignation. And there is some evidence that Democrats are getting antsy about the scandal's effect on their party's image.

Meanwhile, attention is turning to Condit's staff. An employee in the congressman's Washington office has been accused of telling one of Condit's alleged former girlfriends not to talk to the FBI. That would be obstruction of justice. The staffer denies it. Denials, sex and interns: As the week ends, the story gets even hotter -- Bill.

BILL PRESS, HOST: Victoria Toensing, I have only been doing this job now for five years, but I'm still stunned by what some politicians will say or do to get on national television. I thought last night's interview by Wolf Blitzer of Congressman Scott McInnis takes the cake so far. Since maybe everybody didn't see it, let's listen to what the congressman suggested on CNN. Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. SCOTT MCINNIS (R), COLORADO: I think it is unethical, frankly, for a congressman to have a relationship, a sexual relationship with an intern. I intend tomorrow to go to Ethics Committee and ask the ethics committee to immediately draft a rule to be adopted by the House of Representatives that makes it very clear that it is unethical for a United States congressman to have a sexual relationship with an intern.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PRESS: And he sent the letter today. So the House is going to adopt a rule to say who you can sleep with and who you can't.

VICTORIA TOENSING, FORMER JUSTICE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Define intern. You know, next thing you know, nobody's going to hire an intern. They are all going to be called office aides, so it will be OK.

PRESS: But isn't this kind of silly? First of all, she wasn't even an intern in Congress. I mean I'm not defending Gary Condit's cheating on his wife, but she was 24 years old, it was a consensual affair. She wasn't working even working in the Congress. Where is this leading? And I guess the question is -- if you agree as I do that it is silly -- doesn't this show what's wrong with the whole investigation and with all the media talk so far? It's all about the sex and not about finding this poor woman.

TOENSING: Well, I don't think it is all about the sex. I mean, we have learned something from this and that is if you are a government official, and you have sex at the same time you are doing something else wrong, you get out of the scandal free card. And have sex, everyone is afraid to talk about it.

Why is it that there are so few voices criticizing Gary Condit on the Hill? It's because the Republicans are scared to death to say something, and the Democrats, of course, don't want to. Why? Sex is involved. We are not talking about that. We are not talking about sex, we are really talking about lying to the police, covering up about an investigation, talking to possible witnesses, and saying, I wouldn't talk to the FBI if I were you. And I think that is (UNINTELLIGIBLE) I'm sure that we are going to discuss tonight, right, only that?

PRESS: You got that right. We'll get there.

CARLSON: But first we continue our conversation...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Sex, that's exactly right. Commander Zeldin -- and I know why Democrats would be nervous about this potential Ethics Committee rule because it would disproportionately affect them. It's almost a kind of sexual profile, but apart from the political implications...

MICHAEL ZELDIN, FORMER INDEPENDENT COUNSEL: I presume that there is no grandfathering, so all those Republicans who admitted to having, sexual relations, and youthful indiscretions during the Clinton impeachment, they get...

(CROSSTALK)

ZELDIN: There's no grandfathering of them in.

CARLSON: No because I think here we are talking about sexual relations with powerless unpaid women barely out of their teens -- interns. And I am wondering...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Right, but still, the principle that you ought not to take advantage of someone in a position of so much less power than you do, I mean this is a feminist concept that Democrats used to talk about. What's wrong with that, making a statement that this is in fact unethical because of course, it is.

ZELDIN: I think it is unethical and I think there is nothing wrong with making a statement like that. I think if they want to adopt the Ten Commandments as a House ethics rule, that would be fine too. And if they want to bring more morality to Congress, in the way congressmen behave with respect to people that work for them, I'm all for it. I don't think there is anything wrong with that.

I think ultimately, it is an issue between Condit and his constituents, and it's not a resignation issue. But that is not really anything that I have a problem with.

CARLSON: So I'm interested to know if you think any Democrat could get away with voting against this? If it somehow comes to vote in the House, should we have this rule?

ZELDIN: Well, I think it is a silly sort of rule. It's almost like a self-evident proposition that you shouldn't do this and if you wanted...

CARLSON: But it doesn't appear to be for Democrats. They need to be reminded again and again: Don't sleep with the interns.

ZELDIN: You know, you might want to be making this a Democrat, Republican issue.

CARLSON: It is one!

ZELDIN: No, it isn't. It is a morality issue. And if there is a serious part of the sexual discussion it is the morals of these elected officials and what responsibilities they have when they hold public office. I think it is a serious question that requires serious debate by Democrats and Republicans.

But to make it cute like Democrats do this and Republicans don't do it doesn't help the conversation.

CARLSON: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the facts.

PRESS: We could mention some of the names of Republicans who are known to have had affairs with interns. We will move on.

CARLSON: Let's hear them. I'd like to hear them.

TOENSING: I don't.

PRESS: I don't either. We don't -- the interview last night that Gary Condit had with FBI, with the D.C. police sitting in, the fourth one. From everything we know, of course none us were there, but it has been reported and there have been leaks from law enforcement officials after every interview, that this was for the purpose of helping build a psychological profile of Chandra Levy. What kind of a person was she so maybe the FBI could help the D.C. police, who haven't done such a good job so far, find her.

My question to you is: If they meet with Condit again for the fourth time for the sole purpose of focusing on Chandra Levy, can we conclude that they are no longer focusing on Gary Condit and maybe we shouldn't either?

TOENSING: No, I hope not. I truly hope not. First of all, I hope it was a twofold purpose last night, that not only were they to get a profile of Chandra Levy but they were to get a profile of Gary Condit.

I would hope that during the interview,the profiler was sitting there saying, he moved his foot, he didn't move, he blinked his -- whatever it is that's profile. I don't do that, but I would hope that was what was going on. I cannot imagine, with the evidence that we have so far, and you know I have already said some of it earlier on the show, that the police in D.C. can say, let's strike him off. I don't think we are going to ask him any more questions. Let's just go out and look for the body and see what else we can find.

I cannot imagine a good investigator feeling that way after all of the evidence that can still point to Gary Condit, although it doesn't get there as far as a prosecution, as far as being able to indict him.

PRESS: He's met with them now four times. They have searched his apartment. He has taken a polygraph, admittedly by a guy that he hired. He said he will meet with them any more times to offer them any particular information that he has.

I mean, what more can the guy do? Honestly?

TOENSING: Maybe he can't do any more. But I would think that intensive questioning of his staff, I would like to know his time line. I want to know where he was from the moment he left Vice President Cheney's meeting, 1:00, because that is when Chandra signed off her computer. I want to know for the next 48 hours where was he, and I want to see it verified. Why haven't we seen that?

PRESS: Don't you think police know that?

TOENSING: I don't think they do. The reporting, the leaks that I have heard about say that they really can't locate him for the next four hours. The staff said he was around but they don't know how to verify that.

CARLSON: Michael Zeldin, one place we do know Gary Condit has been is the House Intelligence Committee. He sits on it, in that capacity America's secrets pass through his hands, literally. Yet we know now that he is a liar and that he is reckless. Isn't it reckless of Democrats, to allow him to remain there. Shouldn't they force him to resign from the Intelligence Committee?

ZELDIN: Maybe. Maybe it is appropriate for him to step aside voluntarily if there is a perception that he can't be trusted with national security secrets. I don't think there is that reality. But the perception may become a reality and it may be prudent for him to do that.

But to Vicki's point, I think that what Vicki indicts and I think I agree is that in some respects, the biggest failing here is how the police have conducted this investigation. I think Gary Condit has done some very stupid things from the very outset of this investigation which are inexcusable may rise to the level of obstruction justice.

But I don't think there is any evidence linking him to a murder or any criminal activity, other than -- other than this obstruction.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: But we are talking about sitting on the House Intelligence Committee. "National Review" has helpfully reprinted some of the guidelines of that committee for access to classified documents.

One of them is, and I am quoting now, sexual behavior is a security concern. If among other things, it, quote, "reflects lack of judgment, or discretion." So, by the very guidelines of the committee, Gary Condit does not qualify, it seems obvious, to handle classified documents.

I guess, I ask again. why haven't Democrats forced him off it. He is clearly not going to resign on his own. I don't know that they have the power to force him off it.

TOENSING: Yes, they do.

ZELDIN: You can tell me if they do or they do not.

TOENSING: They do. I can tell you.

ZELDIN: If they do then perhaps they should. Perhaps they have been too squeamish about this and fearful of the repercussions of it. But I don't have a quarrel with him stepping aside, if there is evidence of compromise.

TOENSING: He hasn't done it and I have a problem that the Democrats have not forced him off of that committee. He has shown he is blackmailable. I mean, he has tried to -- he has lied, he has hidden evidence, that is blackmailable, and that by definition a national security risk, and it's up to Gephardt in the House to tell him to leave that committee.

PRESS: Well, I don't get the connection. I mean, when suddenly are we all the sex police?

TOENSING: Wait a minute, stop, I didn't talk sex.

PRESS: Jack Kennedy -- pardon me -- Jack Kennedy was having affairs in the White House, so was Lyndon Johnson, so was Franklin Roosevelt. They were having -- they knew everything, they were having...

TOENSING: That was back in the days when the press OK'ed it, Bill.

PRESS: But there have been -- there have been residents since...

TOENSING: But now...

PRESS: ... and I don't have to name him who was having affairs -- an affair certainly in the White House, and getting all kinds of classified material. I mean, what is the connection? You think that just because somebody is cheating on his wife that he is going to sell out his country, is that what you're saying?

TOENSING: Yes, because -- yes, because he lied to the police about this affair because it was so important to him to keep it a secret, even though there was a young woman missing. That's blackmailable.

PRESS: I want to ask you about that, because everybody says in this town -- OK, everybody says he lied to the police about the affair. Do you know for a fact that they asked him the question, and that he lied about it? Isn't it possible that they did not ask him, and because it was cheating on his wife, he didn't volunteer it?

TOENSING: Well, and shouldn't he have? Well, that's -- OK, forget that one. Did he submit a false affidavit to Anne Marie Smith and ask her to sign it? Yes, he did. And he knew that affidavit to be false.

PRESS: But isn't it true that Joe -- an investigator working for Joe Cotchett submitted that on -- as an e-mail and said at the top "you can amend it, you can draft it, you can edit it, and send it back," and Gary Condit probably never even saw it.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: ... as long as you lie.

TOENSING: ... doesn't know that that happened? I -- I'd never accept that.

PRESS: More questions coming up, all kinds of directions that this will go. When we come back, we will ask the big question: is this Condit controversy dragging down all Democrats? And meanwhile, here is the latest today from the parents of Chandra Levy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SUSAN LEVY, CHANDRA'S MOTHER: As far as I know, her last phone call seemed to be coming from specifically...

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERT LEVY, CHANDRA'S FATHER: ... Condit.

S. LEVY: With Condit. So -- and a good friend, if he is a good friend, he would come forward and care that a good friend and a constituent is missing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PRESS: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. Daily news stories about Congressman Gary Condit could not come at a worse time for Democrats trying to push for a patients' bill of rights or campaign finance reform. Is all the media speculation about him reflecting badly on all Democrats?

We continue exploring all aspects of the Condit/Chandra Levy story tonight with attorney and former Justice Department official Victoria Toensing, and attorney and former independent counsel Michael Zeldin -- Tucker.

CARLSON: Michael Zeldin, during the whole Clinton-Lewinsky matter, Democrats went on television and defended the president, the then-president. And they did so, they said, not as partisans, but as defenders of a principle, and that principle was: public figures -- even public figures -- ought to have a zone of privacy, even if they have got creepy sex lives. (a) it's none of our business, and (b) it has no direct bearing on their capacity as public figures, correct?

ZELDIN: That it was not an impeachable offense.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: ... in any case, along comes Gary Condit. Democrats are not defending him, they are letting him swing, some are actually criticizing him in public. You know what this tells me? It tells me that the defense of Clinton was never about principle, it was about power, purely Machiavellian. Democrats defended the then-president because he was the then-president, because he was in charge of the party. There was never a principle, was there?

ZELDIN: That's the question?

CARLSON: That is the question.

ZELDIN: Because it was a good speech. The principle in the Clinton proposition was whether that conduct, immoral as it was, was impeachable. That is what I thought the whole controversy was about. If Gary Condit was up before an impeachment proceeding on the evidence we have, I would defend him against that being impeachable offense too, so I think that there is no inconsistency in the position.

If your proposition is that there should be more morality, I think Democrats should be up front on that, and they should be talking about morality, because I think they have been unnecessarily silent. I think a lot of Republicans have been unnecessarily silent too. There is a lot of silence up on the Hill. How many people have spoken out against it?

CARLSON: But I'm not saying...

ZELDIN: Four. Four.

CARLSON: I'm not saying Democrats are being silent because they are in favor of immorality, though that would be an interesting topic for a show. That's next week.

ZELDIN: But that's the implication.

CARLSON: But -- but because it is not worth it for them. They don't care about the principle of the zone of privacy, all they cared about in case of Clinton was defending the head of their party because he was powerful, and Condit is worth nothing to them, so they just totally abandoned him to the hostile savages in the press.

ZELDIN: Two things. One is I think the evidence against Condit is not there yet. And I think it is prudent, perhaps, to step back and wait and see how it develops. You yourself wrote that there is no evidence at all in the "New York" magazine linking Gary Condit to criminal activity.

CARLSON: And there is not.

ZELDIN: OK, and so given that, it seems maybe perhaps prudent to stand back and let evidence fall where it may. With respect to it being a pure power play, I think you are missing the point, because it was about impeachment and the impeachability of immoral conduct.

PRESS: And God forbid that anybody should be quiet because they believe someone is innocent until proven guilty.

TOENSING: I'm going disagree with that. There is evidence -- and I'm sorry, you wrote that there was no evidence linking him to...

CARLSON: That he murdered her.

TOENSING: Right, that he murdered her...

PRESS: What is the evidence he murdered her?

TOENSING: But there is evidence -- no, no. But there is evidence linking him to criminality, and that is obstruction of justice. It is -- I mean, not at issue that there are factors here that point to obstruction of justice, however strong it is...

PRESS: What are they?

TOENSING: Oh, well, we reiterate them again: it's lying to the police...

PRESS: But wait a minute, you just said earlier you have no evidence that he lied to the police?

TOENSING: Well, the police came out and said finally on the third interview he admitted that he had had an affair with her.

PRESS: But how do we know that they asked him before?

TOENSING: We have to look at the questions. Submitting a false affidavit -- the confluence of these factors, trashing -- you know, putting in the trash the evidence of a watch box...

(CROSSTALK)

TOENSING: Well, stupid, and maybe even illegal, but if you take the confluence of these factors, Bill, and put them together, a good prosecutor could have a very good case.

PRESS: Part of what's going on here in Washington, it seems to me, is a dual between two very good attorneys. I mean, Condit -- Gary Condit's hired Abbe Lowell, and Billy Martin ain't no slouch either. Billy Martin said something pretty powerful this week, Wednesday, about how this investigation is all going. So, I want to ask you to listen to that, please, and get your comment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILLY MARTIN, LEVY'S FAMILY ATTORNEY: We think there are a lot of people who have information who have not yet been interviewed. There are people inside who live at her apartment building who have not all been interviewed to see if they saw anything around May 1, or the day -- last day that Chandra was known to have been inside of her apartment. Those people have yet to be fully interviewed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PRESS: Now, can I repeat that -- 13 weeks later, the people who lived closest to her have not been interviewed by the police? Don't you find that shocking?

TOENSING: Is this a police question. I mean...

PRESS: Yeah.

TOENSING: I do. I'm told there are some reasons for that, that there are people who weren't home, whatever. I don't accept that. I think it's much too long. But that doesn't mean that the police shouldn't still be investigating Gary Condit...

PRESS: That's not my question. I'm just trying to say this is a broader picture than just Gary Condit.

TOENSING: Absolutely. And...

PRESS: And I'm trying to move to maybe some of the other aspects.

TOENSING: To a higher -- higher level...

PRESS: No, not necessarily a higher level. It's worth -- listen, it seems to me it's worth considering. If they haven't talked to the people in her apartment building; if we know they did not search the area landfills because they waited so long and then they said it's going to cost $24 million and now it's too expensive; if we didn't know until two weeks ago that she was on her computer May 1st looking at maps of Rock Creek Park, and only after that, two weeks ago -- which was what? -- 11 weeks later did they such around the Klingle Mansion, that they searched Rock Creek Park, why should we have any confidence at all in the people who are conducting this investigation?

TOENSING: Right on, I agree with you. I'm not going to disagree with that. I've been very critical of the D.C. police.

I mean, are they finally getting their act together? It looks like they're doing a little bit better, but they certainly haven't for two months. The police chief himself has said that he was -- he inherited a mediocre police force, and we go back to Marion Berry, which is a whole two other shows.

(LAUGHTER)

PRESS: Yeah.

CARLSON: Let me disagree with Michael Zeldin, just to end the comity quickly here. There were two fascinating polls down this week, one commissioned by Republicans. And it asked the question, identify Democratic issues, and do you know what vast majority of people asked that question replied?

ZELDIN: Patients' bill of rights.

CARLSON: Gary Condit. There was another poll around the same time done by Pew and it asked people, what do you know about Tom Daschle? 65 percent of people said Tom who?

ZELDIN: Did they do ask who Dennis Hastert was?

CARLSON: I'm not sure they did...

(LAUGHTER)

... but the bottom line here, Michael Zeldin, is basically your party is sinking under the weight of this scandal. Isn't that true?

ZELDIN: No. But to your point, I think that if there is a point to be made from this that's political -- and I don't think this is a political conversation; it should be a law enforcement question -- if there is a political conversation, we should have a serious discussion about the role of our elected officials in moral matters. And I think that's a fair issue, it's something you should be trumpeting. But it shouldn't be a Democratic-Republican one. It should be a bipartisan one, because there is as much malfeasance on both sides of it.

CARLSON: But this is Washington...

ZELDIN: And you should be out front as a conservative talking about that.

CARLSON: And that's a separate conversation. Let's have the political conversation very quickly. This guy is a liability politically. Why -- isn't it time to make him walk the plank, put him on a desert island somewhere? I mean, he's not helpful.

ZELDIN: Well, why?

CARLSON: Because he's the issue.

ZELDIN: But for what? I mean, for what is he being asked to walk the plank? Because he's a political liability?

CARLSON: For embarrassing the party and for overshadowing all of your supposed issues.

ZELDIN: Well, you could have -- you could ask the same question about Burton and his committee. Why did the Republicans not ask that he step off that plank, because he was embarrassing the Republican Party with the excesses of that, or D'Amato and his investigation? That's not the basis...

TOENSING: Well, I don't see...

(CROSSTALK)

Oh, Michael, please. Stop, stop.

ZELDIN: Well, no. But that's not the basis upon which you ask people to step aside, because...

TOENSING: No. I think rather...

(CROSSTALK)

Rather than passing a law, you can't have sex with interns, the Democrats and Republicans should come together and see that Gary Condit is off the Intelligence Committee, and that would be a message that conduct like this is unacceptable.

PRESS: Isn't it a message that we will convict you before the trial?

TOENSING: This isn't a criminal case. It's off the Intelligence Committee, you are a risk.

CARLSON: Ooh! Victoria Toensing, thank you. Michael Zeldin, thank you. Bill Press and I will be back. It is still legal in Washington to sleep with interns. Should it be? One of the questions we'll address in our closing comments when we come back in just a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON: All right, we've got an election coming up in a year and a half. Can you name the two major issues the Democrats will be pushing in this cycle? I can. Chandra and Levy.

(LAUGHTER)

Those are the Democratic issues. This is a story that keeps on giving. I love this story.

PRESS: Tucker, you know, it -- it seems to me that the Republicans tried maybe a couple of years ago -- in fact, they tried it in '96 and then they tried it in 2000, '98 and then 2000 -- to make Democrat -- a Democrat having sex the issue, and they lose and they lose and they lose every time. If Republicans are counting on Gary Condit to win the next election, I've got to tell you, they're going -- that's a joke. Get off it.

CARLSON: I think you're right. I mean, he's not going -- it's going to take a little more than Gary Condit for the Democrats to face a crushing defeat in the midterms. But I will say -- you know who I miss? I never thought I'd say this. The feminists. Remember, they used to hop up and down and talk about imbalances of power, and men, older rich men ought not to take advantage of young girls. They don't say that anymore. I wonder why.

PRESS: I think maybe because some people realize that she was 24 years old. My mother was married and had two kids when she was 24. Chandra Levy knew what she was doing.

CARLSON: To a congressman twice her age.

PRESS: She knew what she was doing.

(CROSSTALK)

From the left, I'm Bill Press. Good night for CROSSFIRE.

CARLSON: And from the right, I'm Tucker Carlson. Join us again next week for another edition of CROSSFIRE.

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